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Medical scribes in high demand

Scribes -- typically pre-med students paid $8 to $10 an hour with no benefits -- save doctors time and money, enable them to spend more quality minutes with patients, and help them bill more fully for services they provide.

Scribes are needed to help doctors navigate the tough transition from paper charts to electronic records, which are supposed to make them more efficient and ensure better care for patients. In return, the scribes get invaluable medical experience and recommendations that enable a high percentage of them to get into medical school. The Baptist emergency group is highly selective, hiring only about one in 10 applicants.

The demand for scribes has expanded as hospitals and the federal government have pushed balky doctors to use EMRs. Last year, Congress provided up to $27 billion over 10 years to encourage adoption of EMRs; providers who don't use them will receive lower payment rates from Medicare. But it's estimated that doctors, at least initially, lose about 30 percent productivity using EMRs.

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